Read the post below this one first.

A definition of Natural Family Planning, by a woman who uses it.

This will not likely change Caspar's opinion of what NFP is. But it might help some of our readers (are there any left?) to understand what NFP is since it is widely misunderstood.

NFP is the understanding and charting of a woman's fertility. That's it. It is simply the knowledge of when a couple can, and cannot conceive. What a couple chooses to do with that knowledge is not defined by NFP.

My husband, Rob, and I do practice NFP although we have never used it to avoid conceiving. In fact, we used it to conceive with this current pregnancy. I chart with NFP (sometimes more regularly than others) in order to know my body, mostly so that I will know if something is wrong with me if things change. We don't have any reasons to avoid children, and likely won't have any in the future, Lord willing. It will be good to know when to abstain, though, if anything should arise in our lives which would necessitate avoiding conception (see post below).

The thing that makes NFP different than any other form of contraception is that it is a hibernating form of contraception unless you choose to abstain. And if you do choose to abstain for one day of your fertile period, you have the chance to change your mind tomorrow. You have not avoided conception until you have continuously abstained for the whole of a woman's fertile period which lasts 7 to 10 days.


wd said...

Wow the burden people attach to having children. It truly boggles the mind.

I have 7 children. Pregnancy is very difficult for me ... getting more so in my older and more out of shape age.

Labor stinks as well. This last blessing from God was one where I finally decided to receive and epidural for the first time ever. ((I kind of got tired of the pain since pregnancy seemed to wear me down so much.))

But even with all of that I do not consider getting pregnant as much of a burden as it would seem that the world does. I mean, I agree that pregnancy is VERY difficult and labor just flat out STINKS, but WOW ... how great these children are!!!

I used to be one of those who did not want a very large family, I didn't want to have too much responsibility and I thought that the fewer children you had the better the child's life would be in terms of receiving attention.

Now, after having 7 children ... I see how very wrong I was in thinking those thoughts. Children are so great! I am never lonely, rarely ever depressed or down, life is very full and deep. I get tons of hugs and "I love you" everyday!

Sure, dealing with the socks basket is a pain in the rear-end, but dealing with pains of housework could never be reason enough to justify having a smaller family. That would just be plain anal as well as selfish and superficial.

And what about income? Well my family is living proof that with a G.E.D. and a highschool diploma - if you work hard enough things will work out in the end. God does provide and we all ought to QUIT acting as if He can't be trusted!

Those are my 2 pennies worth.

Caspar said...

Thank you for your testimony, WD!

You are absolutely right. This is all about TRUST in God. Trust is faith. Faith that does not trust is a dead faith - mere head knowledge. This is what Paul is talking about in 1 Timothy 2:15. It is also what James is talking about in chapter 2 of his epistle. Do we believe what James is preaching in his epistle?

Abraham trusted God when He told him to sacrifice his son. This was accounted to him for righteousness. If Abraham had not trusted God, his faith would have been a dead faith. Abraham trusted in the goodness of God that He could and would raise Isaac from the dead even if he sacrificed him, not negating the promise He gave to Abraham (Hebrews 11:17). This is trust beyond all human reason. This is the trust we are called by God to have in Him - that we fear, love and trust in Him above all things. Is this hard? YES! Do any of us fulfill this will of God? NO! What then, should we sin all the more so that Grace will abound? Absolutely NOT!

Compare the belief of Abraham with our unbelief. He was willing to obey God's seeminly senseless will and kill his son, having faith in God's perfect goodness and will. Yet we worry that God will not care for us and our children if we conceive a child at times which seem to us to be dangerous or inconvenient.

YES, I believe all family planning is against God's will! I do not believe that it could never be the lesser of two evils.

And, Devona, I do FULLY understand the different reasons couple's employ the methods of NFP. We have RC friends who use it and have tried to convince us of the RC doctrine, giving us lots of literature from the Couple to Couple League which I have read. I find a great deal of their material beneficial and positive. I have investigated NFP's positive facets in depth. I do NOT condemn the use of NFP to INCREASE the chances of conception. When I speak of NFP here in this discussion, I am speaking strictly of its use to avoid conception ("family planning").

Yes, Devona, just as with all sin there are different ways in which to address this issue with a person depending where they are in their situation and faith (or lack thereof). However, we must not water down God's Law by saying things are not sinful which are.

I'm sure you would not have the same attitude toward homosexuality. Yet family planning is a sexual sin also. Luther equated it with sodomy! Augustine equated NFP with adultery, making the wife a harlot. Sin is sin. Living in sin is not consistent with faith. Those who are using NFP to avoid conception are contracepting. They are not being fruitful while they are employing it, no matter how fruitful they may be later if God allows them to live that long.

If a person says they are going to give food to the food bank, and they take it there several times a month, are they being charitable? Well, that depends. Are they purposefully avoiding bringing food when the food bank is open? If they keep a schedule at home and only drive to the food bank when it's scheduled to be closed, are they being charitable? Of course they know it's possible that one day the food bank may be open when it's scheduled to be closed. Does this mean that they are actually being charitable when they drive to the foodbank with food?


Devona said...

Some people think that they are trusting in God's protection and provision through the predictablility of a woman's fertility.

That is faith in God as much as there is faith that He will give us food and keep our government from kidnapping and mutilating us.

Devona said...

Protection from death, protection from poverty (not likely the case in America but you know what I mean), protection from what happened to the Chinese woman I mentioned before.

Devona said...

Some how my post ended up before Caspar's, that's odd.

In order to not confuse people, read this as a little back and forth, not Caspar asking a question I already answered.

Caspar said...

Protection from what? The gift of a child?

Caspar said...

"Protection from death, protection from poverty (not likely the case in America but you know what I mean), protection from what happened to the Chinese woman I mentioned before." - Devona

Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: “Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want.” But this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper.


[Luther's works, vol. 5: Lectures on Genesis, page 332]

Devona said...

I've read that quote about 75 million times now. It does not change my mind about what I just said.

Caspar said...

Let me emphasize yet again what I've been trying to say here:

"...this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing."

This issue is all about TRUSTING (believing) GOD. If a woman conceives a child and dies because of it, what sin has she committed? Remember also that we are talking about Christians here in this discussion.

1 Cor. 5:12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges.

The situation in China may, indeed, present a moral dilemma for the Christian who lives there. My goodness, people are being killed simply for being Christian! Are we to deny our faith to save our lives? Are we not to trust God's goodness when it may mean poverty or even death?


Devona said...

I understand that people face death in CHina simply for being a Christian. Do you propose that they walk into the face of a known persecutor of Christians and say, "here I am to be killed"?

Of course if anyone were to face persecution, shame to them who denies Christ to save his own life, but it doesn't mean they should go hunting down death just because it could happen.

Likewise, shame to the couple who becomes pregnant when it is tragic or even deadly, and then aborts it or leaves the child to die.

This is why I think that NFP is a wonderful answer for times when you must contracept. You can become pregnant while using it, even when using it correctly (as is true with all other forms of family planning), but you have not changed the individual acts of intercourse and you do not put your unborn child at an increased risk of death like you would on the pill.

Devona said...

I think that we largely agree, Caspar.

Though you are pointing out what is and is not and individual sin. Which I disagree with.

I, rather, am saying that it is sin at work (the universal sin that we are all guilty of just by being conceived ourselves) that is the reason for contraception. Which you think is me deminishing God's Law.

I think that we're at a point now where it is not helpful to you or I to discuss this farther, not because I'm upset or that you are (which is a good thing since it be so easy to misunderstand while Blogging), just because the way this is going is becoming cyclical.

For the sake of fruitful discussion we should move on to a new topic, unless you can think of something that we haven't said yet...

wd said...

You put protection from death and other horrible things that can happen to a person on the same level as children?

wd said...

There are two ways of looking at children.

Under the lens of the Law and under the lens of the Gospel.

When we look at children under the lens of the Gospel we are seeing them as a blessing from God. Now ask, "What is this blessing?" This blessing can easily be answered by looking at yourself. What are YOU here for? If you can answer that then you can see why it is so important that God be in control over the production of mankind.

((answer to why you are here is because God loves you and desires to have you with Him in heaven. We are also here to spread the Good News. Just think of what life would be like without that one person in your life that has been instrumental in bringing the Good News into your life. Now think of life had that person's parents used B.C. -- because they thought they knew better than God.))

Now look at reproduction through the lens of the Law. The law worries about our finances, health and other things like our desire to travel and have less responsibility in our life. The lens of the Law gets upset when we think about having more children, it worries about children, it uses defensive words when talking about preventing their conception (like "protect against"). When under the lens of the Law, pregnancy becomes a burden and worry.

Caspar said...

I was not suggesting a Christian walk up to a persecuter of Christians and say "here I am to be killed." Nor do I believe that a woman conceiving a child in China is saying to the government "here I am to be killed."

Take the example in Hebrews 11:23 of the parents of Moses refutes your point:

"By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command."

I suggest reading chapter eleven of Hebrews in its entirety.

And I hope you won't stop discussing this. There is still so much more to be said.



Caspar said...

"[NFP does] not put your unborn child at an increased risk of death like you would on the pill." - Devona

I wouldn't be too quick to make that statement. We don't know if NFP has any risks associated with it, but there are studies which have implied such.

At least one study I have read indicates that NFP can increase the risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancies by timing insemination too closely to the impending release of the egg. Ectopic pregancies can occur when fertilization occurs too early after the release of the egg, causing implantation to occur before the baby reaches the uterus. When using NFP to increase fertility, timing intercourse around this critical period increases the risk of this happening.

It makes more sense to to conceive when a couple feels the most compelled to do so by our God-given desire for our spouse, whether that is when the thermometer says to or not.

One more point before I go home to my beautiful wife and six healthy children. This current discussion does not even touch upon all the points I have already presented in previous posts against NFP.

Here is the main one.



wd said...

I suppose my comments were not appropriate and were not posted.

Devona said...

At least one study I have read indicates that NFP can increase the risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancies by timing insemination too closely to the impending release of the egg. Ectopic pregancies can occur when fertilization occurs too early after the release of the egg, causing implantation to occur before the baby reaches the uterus. When using NFP to increase fertility, timing intercourse around this critical period increases the risk of this happening.

This is something that I'd be interested to read about, if you could point me in the direction of this study.


And I'm not stopping the discussion at all. I do think, though that for the benefit of those Fence-sitters we should continue to discuss matters with which we agree. :) Since there are many good things which we do agree on.

Devona said...

And for the record, like I said, there is very much that we do agree on. And when it comes to how your family and my family will live our lives regarding this issue there will likely be very little difference. So I think that we should focus on that, while recognizing where we do differ, that way we can continue in the same direction with the same goals.

And I believe that the goal is to see the Christian culture, especially the Lutheran culture, view the blessing of children as exactly that; a blessing. And to remember the point of marriage is to bring forth godly children, and by so doing bring the huband and wife togther.

Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

I would be interested to see it also. I would also be interested to see what the definition of NFP for this study is. That can make a huge difference.

For instance, there are many studies on breastfeeding and intelligence. And the differences range from dramatic to no significant difference. But when looking at how the researchers defined breastfeeding, every study that defined breastfeeding as exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first 6 weeks, a significant difference was always found. The studies that chose to include formula supplementation in their "breastfeeding" sample, without making it a seperate category, did not find a significant difference.

Logically, I can see how using the ovulation strips or something that works off of FSH or LH ( follicle stimulating hormone or luteinizing hormone) could possibly do that, because they indicate that ovulation is in fact happening.

However, the standard methods for natural family planning are generally cervical mucus, temperature, or a combination of the two, and possibly adding cervical position as a back check (as in Couple to Couple League).

Usually, a couple trying to conceive begins having sex when phase 2 starts. That usually is about day 6 of the cycle. Then they make love either every day or every other day throughout phase 2. I don't see how this would create a significant difference from those who do not practice NFP at all, since the chance of becoming pregnant by having intercourse more than 8 days before ovulation is very very small.

Caspar said...

Thanks, Devona. I'll look for that study, but don't hold your breath. I don't believe one study is conclusive in any case. The fact is, the effects of NFP really haven't been studied the way the effects of other methods have been, so we really don't know. I consider it a moot point anyway.

I just believe we shouldn't be messing with God's part in marital relations. Man and wife should come together when the God-given desire calls them together, and whatever happens as a result of that because God so desires should be accepted as the gift it is.

I believe that only this attitude is consistent with God's Word. Otherwise, we are simply not trusting Him with our whole hearts.

Do I trust God with my whole heart? Certainly not. I am a sinner and incapable of trusting God with my whole heart. However, what we are capable of is not the standard to judge by.

As for the situation in China, etc., we must talk to people where they are. This certainly does not include seeking out all the sin that person is guilty of. Do we go around asking people if they've lied or stolen, etc. lately? This is not Lutheran practice. We aren't the sin police. I agree with the pastoral care suggested in the LCR document:

The churches and ministers should not take it upon themselves to investigate the private practices of their members (Eighth Commandment). Refusal to reproduce should be treated first by patient instruction and counsel. Nevertheless, when a situation becomes a public scandal then evangelical discipline is in order (Matt. 18:17).

As fellow Christians, we are not to police people's bedrooms. However, when people are publicly shameless about their use of contraceptives (including NFP) to prevent conception for obviously selfish reasons, I believe they should be admonished through "patient instruction and counsel." I have done this with my Roman Catholic friends when they talked about how they were avoiding pregnancy (via NFP) around the time of their daughter's graduation because it would be inconvenient when they would have so many activities to attend to.


Devona said...

I have to admit that I have been guilty of thinking it would have been better to wait until after we found a house to get pregnant again, haha, but my baby urge was too strong in the end. Not like I think that's a good reason, especially since I haven't had to move anything heavy. ;)

Pr. David Rufner said...

Good discussion all... I am enjoying following along, even though I know I have been less than active in past weeks... blogging is a hobby (fortunately or not) in the midst of other callings. I will hope to be more active in days to come.

Caspar, it was interesting to hear some near positive comments about the use of NFP by some (contra 'family planning' and it's bent on childlessnss as I hear you describe it). Time and again I run into NFP couples who have added to the NFP stigma that it "doesn't work" by the begetting of children early and often. My wife and I find such a charge against NFP "not working" to be quite amusing seeing as the Lord usesd it to show us just how much he is at work in marriage. For us, under the guise of NFP, the Lord stripped away from us so many false notions as to why we couldn't/shouldn't have children until such and such a time.

Now, like Devona (if I heard you correctly Devona)it is used as a method of care for my wife and her fertility and it is a window into the Lord's creation and how it does "work", is at "work", and strives to "work".

Caspar, you referred back to your post on 1 Cor. 7. Have I shared with you my dialogue with Dr. Gregory Lockwood on the matter? I can't remember if I have at the moment. Please let me know.

Finally, I've heard a couple of undertones questioning whether or not this blog is being read at the moment. A couple of thoughts:
- this could just be a busy time for many as I know it has for me
- Few people take part of conversations that they find to be unimportant or outside of their "felt-needs" (a somewhat detestabel term). It is my observation that so many of our colleagues, friends, and brothers and sisters in the matter do not find this topic to be important. The reality, however, is that it is important (this will become more and more apparent with the demise of western culture as we know it in Europe in the coming decades brought on by their lack of procreation). I would expect that our conversation will be a curiosity to many. Fewer will take it seriously. Let's not be discouraged by that. Our conversation is important (one needs only consider Christ and His Bride the Church - the fruit of that union - and the wonderful reality that marriage reflects this mystery to see the importance). The conversations we continue to have now will prepare us for those to come.

May the Lord bless your week.